33 Years of Art’s Cyclery | A Shop With A History

Art’s Cyclery has been a mainstay on the Central Coast of California since its inception in 1982. I’m sure most of you have heard of the little town on the Central Coast called San Luis Obispo. Most, however, have not heard of the sleepy, little-er town of Baywood just 15 minutes northwest of San Luis Obispo near the coast. The little town of Baywood was the original home to Art’s Cyclery. At the time, it was founded and run by a man named Art Leach. As most great things start in small places (Apple started in a garage), Art’s started in a tiny, little shack doing neighborhood repairs and sales. Shortly thereafter, Art upgraded to a larger space on 10th street. The 10th Street location was able to support the business until 1988 when Art decided to expand to San Luis Obispo for a better location and a larger demographic. He purchased a popular shop in the big city called Velo SLO on South Street and renamed it Art’s SLO Cyclery.


Art’s Cyclery on South St. c 1992
L-R Mark Torcaso, Dave Rhubka, Onedin Geraldo, Gilles Lalonde, Guido, Jeff Tsuda, Phil Strong, Tim Vaughn, Brian Clement, Eric Benson, Art Leach, John Dawson, Nate Erickson

Soon after purchasing the store on South street,one of the current owners began working for Art. His name was Eric Benson and he’s the fourth one over from the far right…wearing the socks and the Birkenstocks, which was very fashionable at the time. Note that Art, to the right, has the same getup. Eric was working for Art building bikes while he was busy racing for the Cal Poly Wheelmen and finishing up his education at Cal Poly. As Eric stuck with the company and growth continued, he moved out of his role as a bike builder and salesman into the roll of full-time buyer by 1992.


Atascadero Criterium in the Sunken Gardens c. 1991

In 1995, business was booming for Art’s Cyclery and once again, a move into a larger space (with an actual warehouse) was necessary. Art’s Cyclery moved up the road to Santa Barbara Street. The company forayed into Mail Order with the Alpinestars line of shoes and apparel, but retail was the focus. At this time, Scott Smith entered the picture. Scott began working at Art’s Cyclery as a Retail Manager and grew with the company over the next 7 years or so, working hand in hand with Eric.


Eric and Scott at a dealer event c.2002

When 2002 came around, it was made clear to both Eric and Scott that Art was ready to retire. It was at this point that the two men put their heads and finances together to buy the business from him. Because the company had become such a mainstay in the SLO community and out of respect to Art (the man, the myth, the legend), the two decided that keeping the name “Art’s Cyclery” was the best option when all things were considered.


Eric and his wife, Alisa, presenting bike fit to a group of triathletes.

Eric Benson is now not only the co-owner of Art’s Cyclery, but is still the head buyer, social relationships manager, and full-time rider. The best part of it all is that even in his late 40’s, Eric is smoking all of his friends and employees on and off the road, with the only opportunity to beat him being the mountain descents and only if they’re screamers! Scott Smith is still our Retail Manager, but mostly focused on the Sales and Marketing of Art’s Cyclery as a whole. The online business is quite large these days and ensuring a strong, professional, and competitive online presence is no easy task. Scott is nothing short of avid when it comes to surfing and kiteboarding, spending most of his days in whatever type of water looks best for the mood he’s in. Don’t worry though, he still rides bikes on occasion.


Co-owner, Scott Smith, can be found riding his mountain bike before the sun rises.

The best way to conclude this article is to pay tribute to the great Art Leach himself, a man so honorable and so fun that he followed through on his lost bet and cut his hair into a bleached mullet for an entire month.


Art after losing a Super Sale bet. Hairstyle courtesy of Mike Beruman. The Mississippi Mudflap.

Cheers to you Art! And Cheers to 33 more good years at Art’s Cyclery.